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CrisisWatch Database

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Colombia

  |  1 Sep 2014

Unchanged

President Santos sworn in for 2nd term 7 Aug; promised successful conclusion of peace negotiations in near future but also warned FARC his patience with continued attacks on civilian infrastructure not “indefinite”. 27th cycle of Cuba-based govt-FARC peace negotiations ended 22 Aug with significant progress in transitional justice discussions. Joint statement called first of five meetings between conflict victims and negotiators 16 Aug “watershed moment”; success helped to reduce tensions over composition of victims’ delegation. Clarification Commission on the Conflict and its Victims 21 Aug began working on academic report examining causes and effects of conflict. Sub-commission of military and civilian experts travelled to Havana 22 Aug to start consultations on the “End of the Conflict”, last substantive agenda item. Commission member Gen Javier Flórez 25 Aug resigned from Joint Chiefs of Staff to work full time on peace process. Constitutional Court 6 Aug upheld for second time Legal Framework for Peace, main legal base for current talks. “We are Defenders” activist group 18 Aug reported decrease in murders of human rights activists in first quarter of 2014 to 30 killed, but increase in number of attacks. President Santos 25 Aug called for investigations into “criminal ring” after detained presidential campaign advisor for opposition claimed in 23 Aug interview he received orders to spy, inter alia, on politicians and peace talks. Prosecutor 28 Aug announced 32 local politicians arrested for alleged ties to right-wing paramilitary groups. Authorities 26 Aug released “Popeye”, former head of Medellin cartel hitmen and right hand of Pablo Escobar, from prison, after having served 22 of a 30-year sentence.

Guatemala

  |  1 Sep 2014

Unchanged

3 died during several days of clashes in north following 15 Aug arrest of peasant leaders accused of stealing electricity; authorities report 6 police wounded and more than 20 residents arrested. Army chief Rudy Ortiz killed 20 Aug in helicopter crash near Mexico border. News report published 11 Aug claimed more than 1,000 grenades reported stolen from army air base in Petén department instead sold to drug traffickers and other criminal organisations.

Mexico

  |  1 Sep 2014

Unchanged

President Peña Nieto 22 Aug unveiled new unit of federal police known as “Gendarmerie”, a 5,000-strong rapid-response force that will be used to protect key economic interests from outbreaks of violent crime. Dalia Santana Pineda, Mayor of Huetamo, Michoacán, arrested 14 Aug on charges of homicide and extortion, reportedly collaborated with Knights Templar cartel. New 500-member “citizen” police squad inaugurated in Michoacán 18 Aug will take over local law enforcement in state capital and 2 other municipalities, eventually replacing municipal police throughout Michoacán. News editor Octavio Rojas Hernández killed 11 Aug in Oaxaca. Authorities reportedly began rounding up undocumented Central American migrants along southern border.

Venezuela

  |  1 Sep 2014

Unchanged

Tensions remained within ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) following late-July endorsement of President Maduro as party chairman; some dissident factions expressed intention to demand “respect for the legacy of Chávez”. Opposition Democratic Unity alliance (MUD) also divided following July resignation of Ramón Guillermo Aveledo as executive sec; successor will be chosen in Sept; radicals pressing ahead with plan for “citizens’ congress” in Oct despite scepticism among moderates. Economic decline continued: reported leak from central bank suggested GDP shrunk by 4% to 5.5% in first half of 2014; annual inflation remains above 70%. Introduction of rationing cards with biometric system for access to basic staples announced; health sector in crisis according to National Medicine Academy. President Maduro 1 Aug met Colombian counterpart at Cartagena summit, discussed smuggling; govt 11 Aug unilaterally announced closure of borders between 2 countries from 10pm until 5am; communities around major crossing points staged protests.

Ecuador

  |  1 Aug 2014

Unchanged

Attorney General Galo Chiriboga 9 July highlighted ongoing security crisis in northern provinces bordering Colombia during meeting with security agencies, reported homicide rates far exceeding national average in San Lorenzo, Esmeraldas province, and Putumayo, Sucumbíos province.

Colombia

  |  1 Aug 2014

Unchanged

Govt and FARC 17 July reached agreement on mechanisms for victims’ participation in transitional justice discussions; Cuba-based peace talks will resume 12 Aug, with first victims’ delegation expected in Havana 16 Aug. Three regional forums held 4-18 July prepared inputs amid heated debate over the alleged underrepresentation of FARC victims. National Liberation Army (ELN) 4 July celebrated 50th anniversary with string of attacks and three-day “armed strike” in north-eastern stronghold regions. President Santos 29 July warned intensifying guerrilla offensive could lead to rupture of talks; Southern Putumayo department particularly hit, with repeated FARC attacks on oil and transport trucks causing significant environmental damage. Police 20 July detained leader of FARC’s 30th Front in Cauca Valley. Dissident group of demobilised EPL guerrillas asked in 25 July open letter to join current peace process. Jailed AUC leader “Macaco” 25 July called for revision of transitional justice rules amid growing concerns over approaching liberations of paramilitaries having served 8-year maximum prison sentences ordered under special legislation. President Santos 20 July inaugurated newly elected Congress likely to play crucial role in implementing future peace agreements.

Guatemala

  |  1 Aug 2014

Unchanged

President Pérez Molina 25 July visited Washington, met with U.S. President Obama, Honduras and El Salvador counterparts, discussed detention of migrant children at U.S. border, efforts to deter illegal migration, development and security in Central America, and asked the U.S. to grant “Temporary Protected Status” (TPS) to Guatemalan migrants. Former guerrilla leader Fermín Felipe Solano Barillas sentenced 4 July to 90 years in prison for massacre of 22 indigenous villagers in 1988; first conviction of former leftist guerrilla for human rights abuses during decades-long conflict. Task Force Chortí, composed of 200 police and 100 soldiers, 10 July began operations to combat drug trafficking, smuggling along borders with Honduras and Belize.

Mexico

  |  1 Aug 2014

Unchanged

President Peña Nieto 7 July announced joint border program with Guatemala designed to safeguard human rights, combat crime along border; Mexico to create “integrated attention centres” to coordinate flow of goods and people, facilitate legal migration for Guatemala and Belize citizens. Leader of governing Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in Nuevo Urecho, Michoacán state, killed 25 July by suspected drug cartel gunmen. Senate late July passed 4 bills to reform national oil company Pemex and state-owned power company CFE, set up regulatory bodies to oversee direct foreign investment in energy sector. Over 30 police officers arrested 26 July in Michoacán, accused of links to organised crime.

Venezuela

  |  1 Aug 2014

Unchanged

Opposition leader Ramon Aveledo resigned 29 July as opposition alliance remained divided over how to oppose President Maduro’s regime: more radical wing continued to push for constitutional assembly; moderates led by Henrique Capriles advocate focus on building electoral support. Ruling United Socialist Pary of Venezuela (PSUV) also divided: Rafael Ramírez, energy minister and chairman of state oil corporation, increasingly influential following June sacking of planning minister and radical leftist Jorge Giordani. Party congress held late July elected Maduro as party leader; calls from dissidents to debate internal democracy, corruption accusations brushed aside. Military gaining influence: keynote speech at 5 July independence day ceremony in parliament given for first time by military general, Vladimir Padrino López, who declared the military to be “chavista”, or supportive of left-wing political ideology of former president Chávez. U.S. 30 July announced travel ban on 24 high-ranking Venezuelan officials including cabinet ministers citing human rights abuses during crackdown on opposition protests. Former intelligence chief Gen Hugo Carvajal arrested 23 July in Aruba on U.S. drugs charges, freed following Venezuelan pressure.

Colombia

  |  1 Jul 2014

Unchanged

President Santos secured re-election in 15 June presidential runoff, beating Uribist-Democratic Centre candidate Óscar Zuluaga in narrow 51%-45% victory; polls relatively peaceful, reflecting FARC’s 7 June ceasefire declaration. Results seen as boost for peace process. Govt 10 June confirmed exploratory talks with National Liberation Army (ELN) underway since Jan; also confirmed agreements for future agenda on transitional justice and participation of society. FARC, govt 7 June presented landmark “Declaration of Principles” to guide discussions on transitional justice (5th point on Havana agenda); amid highly polarised political debate, key message was pledge that parties would not mutually grant themselves impunity. Parties also recognised victims’ rights to truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-repetition will not be up for negotiation, but talks will focus upon how best to satisfy them. In exchange for ruling out impunity, govt gave in to longstanding FARC demands to set up exploratory commission to look into historical narrative of conflict. Both sides agreed to receive delegation of victims of armed conflict in Havana.

Guatemala

  |  1 Jul 2014

Unchanged

Former chief of National Civil Police (PNC) Erwin Sperisen 6 June sentenced by Swiss court to life imprisonment for execution of 7 prisoners during police raid in El Pavon prison outside Guatemala City in 2006; defence team appealing verdict. 3 ex-policemen arrested 10 June for participating in killing of fellow police officer investigating 1990 murder of Myrna Mack, anthropologist who documented human rights violations during Guatemala’s civil war.

Mexico

  |  1 Jul 2014

Unchanged

Ongoing insecurity in Michoacán region: rural policeman and ex-self-defence militia member found murdered along with family 19 June; masked men 5 June kidnapped and killed local Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) leader in Erongarícuaro town. Another PRI leader murdered in neighbouring Guerrero state 15 June. Michoacán Governor Fausto Vallejo 18 June announced resignation due to health problems, days after media circulated photo purportedly showing son with top drug trafficker. Secretary of Govt Osorio Chong 9 June said security strategy implemented last month in north-eastern state of Tamaulipas already reduced crime, violence in state. Authorities 18 June announced police arrested alleged Gulf drug cartel leader Juan Manuel Rodríguez in Reynosa, and marines captured alleged Zetas leader Ricardo Iván Santillán Trejo in Ciudad Mante. Security forces 30 June killed 22 gang members, allegedly from La Familia Michoacana cartel, in SW Mexico state.

Venezuela

  |  1 Jul 2014

Unchanged

Dialogue between govt and opposition Democratic Unity (MUD), which began early March and was suspended by opposition in May, failed to restart. Govt rebuffed demands for release of Iván Simonovis, arrested in 2004 and sentenced in 2009 for alleged complicity in attempted coup against former President Chávez, and other political prisoners. Preliminary agreements reached on formation of broad-based truth commission and renewal of Supreme Court (TSJ), electoral authority (CNE) and other nominally autonomous powers, so far failed to bear fruit. MUD’s more radical wing proposed constituent assembly as way forward; student movement yet to take a decision on matter. Street protests which began mid-Feb significantly diminished, but economic crisis continues to affect govt’s popularity: one leaked poll, which concluded mid-May, gave Maduro less than 35% support. Dismissal of long-serving planning Minister Jorge Giordani 18 June and replacement with economist Ricardo Menendez provoked left-wing backlash which threatens regime unity as ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) prepares for 3rd congress in late July.

Ecuador

  |  1 Jun 2014

Unchanged

On 24 May President Correa announced that he was backing a constitutional amendment which would allow him and other state representatives to run for re-election indefinitely.

Colombia

  |  1 Jun 2014

Unchanged

Govt, FARC representatives 16 May reached preliminary agreement on drug policies, 3rd issue under discussion in Havana peace talks; parties agreed, inter alia, on national crop substation program and demining initiative; first time FARC has implicitly recognised wider links to drug-economy. Agreement followed 16 May historic announcement of joint FARC/ELN unilateral ceasefire 20-28 May. Óscar Iván Zuluaga, peace talks sceptic, won first round of presidential elections 25 May; faces incumbent President Santos in 15 June run-off. Turnout historically low at 40%. Video released 17 May showed Zuluaga apparently discussing ways to use classified military intelligence to undermine peace process; followed 6 May arrest of Zuluaga campaign aide for allegedly spying on Santos and FARC negotiator email accounts. Santos’ chief campaign manager resigned 5 May, accused of having received $12mn from notorious drug trafficker. Ombudsman’s Office 12 May said some 2,500 indigenous people from High Baudó region (Chocó) displaced by fighting between ELN and NIAG Urabeños. Police 30 May arrested 46 NIAG Rastrojos members in Barranquilla, Atlantico dept. Govt 8 May created national platform to discuss peasant demands established during March meeting of “Agrarian Summit”, end new wave of social protests; FARC 13 May praised grassroots organisations for achieving “formidable triumph".

Venezuela

  |  1 Jun 2014

Unchanged

Tensions remained high: opposition Democratic Unity (MUD) alliance coordinator 13 May said talks with govt "in crisis"; President Maduro 14 May said he had no intention of abandoning talks, hoped MUD would reciprocate. Regional FMs acting as negotiation facilitators visited, held meetings with both sides 18 May in bid to break deadlock but no progress made. Intensity of student-led protests continued to decline, but no easing of repression on part of security forces: 4 “peace camps” set up by protesters in different parts of Caracas violently dismantled 8 May.

Mexico

  |  1 Jun 2014

Unchanged

Some 450 former vigilantes sworn in as rural police officers in Michoacán 10 May; federal security envoy Alfredo Castillo said govt received over 3,000 applications from former vigilantes, announced self-defence groups registered about 8,000 firearms under 14 April agreement requiring them to put down weapons or join official security forces. Some vigilantes reportedly intend to continue patrols, maintain checkpoints. Govt Minister Osorio Chong 12 May announced security plan for Tamaulipas state, where surging violence since early April has killed approx 100; Tampaulipas intelligence chief and 2 bodyguards died 5 May in shoot-out. Zapatista movement leader Subcomandante Marcos 25 May announced stepping down from public leadership.

Guatemala

  |  1 Jun 2014

Unchanged

Former Supreme Court Justice Thelma Aldana sworn in 17 May for four-year term as attorney general, ending selection process criticised as opaque and politicised. Aldana vowed to make cases involving organised crime, including drug trafficking, priority as well as violence against women, said she would formulate new criminal justice policy, promised to consult with UN International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG); did not specify whether she will reprosecute former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt. Authorities 15 May arrested alleged drug lord Jairo Orellana Morales, reportedly linked both to Zetas cartel and Lorenzanas family accused of trafficking cocaine, in eastern Zacapa dept after shoot-out with military and police forces which left 2 dead. Pérez Molina 18 May announced creation of air task force to fight drug trafficking.

Colombia

  |  1 May 2014

Unchanged

New round of peace negotiations between govt and FARC started 24 April amid increasing expectations of decisive progress on illegal drugs, 3rd substantial issue under consideration. FARC rallied behind process when Rodrigo Granda, member of FARC negotiating team, 6 April told press that “never before now have existed real conditions” for successful peace process. President Santos 10 April said he would “think twice” before ordering killing of FARC leader Timochenko, causing uproar in Uribista opposition circles who accuse Santos of being weak with guerrillas. Alleged ELN kidnapping victim found dead 20 April in Saravena (Arauca). News network Noticias Uno 13 April revealed that leaders of New Illegal Armed Group (NIAG) Urabeños and organised crime group Envigado Office reportedly willing to engage in negotiations with govt; Justice Minister Alfonso Gómez Méndez 13 April responded that only a “surrender” to justice could be acceptable. Upon judicial order, Santos 23 April reinstated Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro, removed from office in March over alleged mismanagement. New agrarian “strike” started 28 April, seen as likely to have less impact than 2013 protests; Interior Minister Aurelio Iragorri 28 April claimed protests in some regions infiltrated by FARC.

Mexico

  |  1 May 2014

Unchanged

Federal envoy Alfredo Castillo 14 April announced deal with 20 “self-defence” leaders whereby vigilantes would disarm by 10 May or join legal security forces; unclear whether groups will have to register or turn over weapons, but accord appears to bar open display of weaponry in armed patrols. Authorities 21 April reported they arrested dozens of criminals posing as members of vigilante groups. Security forces 15 April arrested Arnoldo Villa Sánchez, second-in-command of Beltrán-Leyva cartel, in Mexico City. Senate 24 April amended military justice code so that armed forces members who commit crimes against civilians can be tried in civilian courts.

Bolivia

  |  1 May 2014

Unchanged

Clashes erupted late March-early April between govt and mining cooperatives over modifications to mining bill; at least 2 dead, scores more injured. About 1,000 soldiers went on strike 22-25 April demanding promotion opportunities; govt later dismissed 715 of them.

Venezuela

  |  1 May 2014

Unchanged

Govt 10 April began dialogue with delegation from opposition Democratic Unity (MUD) alliance to find solution to political and economic crisis, with session broadcast live; few concrete results. Subsequent closed-door session brought agreement to broaden govt’s parliamentary “truth commission” to include range of respected figures. Student movement and radical “la salida” wing of MUD yet to agree to talks; demands include release of political prisoners, including those arrested during protests, and end to “repression of peaceful demonstrations”. Clashes in major cities continued, though generally diminished in intensity late month, alongside presence of armed pro-govt colectivos and casualty rate. Talks continued behind closed doors. Following 25 March announcement that 3 air force generals arrested for coup-plotting, pro-govt newspaper 14 April alleged 30 more detainees, including at least one opposition leader, accused of involvement in “destabilisation effort”. 18 students and protesters arrested 26 April after massive rally in Caracas and other cities. Human rights NGO lawyer also detained on conspiracy charges.

Guatemala

  |  1 May 2014

Unchanged

Civil society leaders 9 April called for more transparent process in selection of next attorney general, warning that nominating commissions under pressure from powerful interest groups. Guatemala City archbishop warned selection process provoking “bitterness and polarisation”, mobilising “political, economic and other interests, even organised crime”. Newspapers 4 April reported commission charged with sending list of nominees to President Pérez Molina validated 11 of 32 challenges filed against current Attorney General Paz y Paz, more than those accepted against any other candidate.

Guatemala

  |  1 Apr 2014

Unchanged

Govt 18 March extradited suspected drug lord Waldemar Lorenzana to U.S. to face cocaine smuggling charges. Former President Portillo 18 March pleaded guilty in New York to money-laundering charges, nearly 3 years after acquittal on similar charges in Guatemala. Attorney General Paz y Paz 7 March announced decision to seek another term in office, filing paperwork before nominating commission that will submit candidates to president for final selection; her 4-year term was cut short by Feb technical Constitutional Court ruling, criticised by some human rights groups as payback for prosecuting former dictator José Efraín Ríos Montt on genocide charges. Trial of former Revolutionary Organisation of the People in Arms (ORPA) commander Felipe Solano Barillas, aka “Lieutenant David”, began 27 Feb; Solano accused of murder and war crimes in connection with 1988 massacre of 22 people in Chimaltenango dept.

Haiti

  |  1 Apr 2014

Unchanged

President Martelly said long-delayed senatorial and municipal elections, initially due 2011, “could take place in summer”; opposition parties appeared sceptical of president’s commitment to polls. UN Independent Expert on Human Rights in Haiti 2 March said UN “should be first to honour” principle of compensation for victims of rights violations; victims’ lawyers demanding $100,000 compensation for every person who died, $50,000 for each who became ill from cholera epidemic blamed on UN peacekeepers; UN argued it is immune from such claims under Convention on Privileges and Immunities.

Venezuela

  |  1 Apr 2014

Unchanged

Despite announcement by President Maduro and other leading govt members that protest movement launched early Feb (which they term a “coup”) has been defeated, protests continued: most barricades rebuilt, no sign of protesters’ determination wavering. Continued clashes between protesters and pro-govt forces; since protest movement began 39 people have been killed and 2,041 placed in detention facilities, half still with probationary measures. Security forces deployed 17 March on Plaza Altamira in Caracas, but rapidly outnumbered by peaceful civilian protesters from surrounding neighbourhoods. Govt’s “peace conference” and truth commission set up in Feb failed to incorporate radicals or moderates from opposition Democratic Unity (MUD) alliance. FMs from Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) visited Caracas 25-27 March, met with opposition groups as well as govt. Immediately after UNASUR’s 12 March decision to send mission, Maduro announced he would take “drastic measures” to end protests; announcement followed by deployment of National Guard in Caracas, arrest of mayors of San Cristobal (Táchira) and San Diego (Valencia), stripping of parliamentary immunity for MUD legislator Maria Corina Machado with view to prosecuting her for murder of political violence victims, and arrest of 3 air force generals for alleged coup plot. Vatican 28 March announced it is willing to facilitate peaceful resolution of crisis; Maduro said govt would accept its mediation.

Mexico

  |  1 Apr 2014

Unchanged

Govt 9 March confirmed Nazario Moreno González, leader of Knights Templar cartel in Michoacán state, killed in shootout with federal forces; authorities said fingerprint analysis confirmed identity of Moreno, who was also reported dead in 2010. Authorities said federal forces seized 119,000 tons of illegally-obtained iron ore since taking over port of Lázaro Cárdenas Nov 2013; illegal mining a main source of cartel income. State officials 11 March arrested key “self-defence” leader Hipólito Mora in Michoacán for allegedly murdering 2 members of rival vigilante group. National Security Commissioner Manuel Mondragón y Kalb, who oversees federal police forces, resigned 17 March citing “personal reasons”. Tanhuato mayor Gustavo Garibay shot dead in Michoacán state 22 March.

Colombia

  |  1 Apr 2014

Unchanged

Congressional elections took place 9 March amid high abstention rate, allegations of fraud and election of 69 candidates allegedly linked to illegal armed actors, but relatively few security incidents overall. Polls brought no radical change in balance of political forces; preliminary results showed President Santos’ ruling coalition lost clout but still boasts strong majority in Lower House (92/166 votes) and remains well positioned in Senate (47/102 votes); opposition Democratic Centre led by former President Uribe came 2nd in Senate (19 votes). Santos 19 March signed decree removing Bogotá mayor and former M-19 guerrilla Gustavo Petro from office, executing highly controversial decision of Inspector General; move came day after Inter American Human Rights Commission (IACHR) asked govt to suspend dismissal; govt argued IACHR measures non-binding. 22nd cycle of peace talks between govt and FARC ended 30 March; parties optimistic to conclude discussions on illegal drugs “soon”. FARC 21 March acknowledged responsibility for earlier killing of 2 policemen in Tumaco (Nariño), but 26 March refused to hand over perpetrators. National Liberation Army (ELN) 6 March liberated in Antioquia police official kidnapped in Feb; 17 March reiterated its willingness to engage in new talks. Santos 26 March said peace process had sufficiently matured to re-activate National Peace Council. Social movements participating in “National Agrarian Summit” 16 March threatened new strike for early May. Santos 6 March announced major security force intervention in Buenaventura (Valle) to combat escalating criminal violence.

Guatemala

  |  1 Mar 2014

Unchanged

High-risk court 21 Feb sentenced 9 Zetas drug cartel members to more than 100 years’ prison for May 2011 massacre of 27 farm workers in Petén department. Gunmen 8 Feb killed 9, including 2 children, in San Luis village, Petén, highlighting violence in border regions. Constitutional Court 5 Feb ruled Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz must step down in May, 7 months before completing 4-year term; local and international rights groups condemned ruling, saying it was engineered by those opposed to high-profile prosecutions of former officials on human rights charges.

Venezuela

  |  1 Mar 2014

Deteriorated Risk Alert

Month saw biggest anti-govt demonstrations in years as students took to streets across country; over dozen killed in clashes with security forces, scores injured; hundreds arrested, most subsequently released. Over 500 complaints of abuses by security services according to rights groups. Events threatening to further erode stability, human rights in already polarised nation. Demonstrations protesting violent crime, economic crisis began in San Cristobal city in SW state Táchira 2 Feb. Students backed by “La salida” movement, comprising wing of opposition alliance Democratic Unity (MUD), 12 Feb staged march to HQ of chief prosecutor Luisa Ortega Díaz to demand release of those jailed and protest food shortages, inflation, crime. Violence broke out between small group of demonstrators and armed civilian supporters of govt; 2 people died in initial clashes and third later, all shot in head. Over 300 reportedly detained over following week, 2 more killed; detainees reported beatings, torture, death threats, other abuses. Govt 16 Feb issued arrest warrant for Voluntad Popular (VP) party founder Leopoldo López accusing him of instigating violence, claimed opposition seeking violent overthrow of President Maduro. López 18 Feb turned himself in; called for protesters to stay in streets but remain non-violent; taken to military prison to await trial. As protests continued govt sent in riot squads accompanied by civilian gunmen; forces attacked protesters, destroyed and stole property. Govt 20 Feb sent troops to Táchira, threatened to declare state of emergency there. 3 U.S. diplomats given 48 hours to leave country 17 Feb for alleged involvement in supposed conspiracy. Govt 27 Feb issued arrest warrant for second opposition leader Carlos Vecchio, also from VP party. 

Mexico

  |  1 Mar 2014

Unchanged

Federal authorities 4 Feb said army in Michoacán state registered 523 “self-defence” militia members and 813 weapons. Under pact signed with federal govt, some “self-defence” leaders promised to join rural and municipal police, others rejected agreement. Prosecutor’s office 10 Feb confirmed investigation into human remains found in Coahuila state near U.S. border; media reported mass graves possibly contain hundreds of corpses. Clash between armed groups 21 Feb reportedly left at least 20 dead in S Guerrero. Govt 22 Feb announced arrest of world’s most wanted drug lord, Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán, in Mazatlán. 

Colombia

  |  1 Mar 2014

Unchanged

20th cycle of negotiations ended 13 Feb with parties claiming they “worked non-stop” on construction of agreement on illicit drug problem. Weekly news magazine Semana 3 Feb revealed military intelligence running covert operations under code-name “Andrómeda” against number of targets including govt’s chief negotiator in Havana and High Commissioner for Peace. Defence minister next day dismissed army’s chief of intelligence and head of technical intelligence. Semana 16 Feb published details of alleged corruption network within army; evidence from taped conversations also seemed to confirm that corrupt or diverted monies benefited some officers sentenced for involvement in extrajudicial executions. President Santos 18 Feb fired head of armed forces Gen Leonardo Barrero, recorded advising to “organise mafia” in effort to put pressure on prosecutors and stop human rights investigations. Presidential candidate of left-wing Patriotic Union Aída Avella suffered attack 23 Feb in Tame (Arauca); After initial denial, ELN took responsibility, apologised. 25 Feb bomb attack in Quibdó (Chocó), carried out by unknown perpetrators, left 4 dead, 10 injured. Santos 24 Feb named former Interior Minister Germán Vargas Lleras as running mate for May electoral contest. “We are Defenders” coalition annual report noted increase in killings of human rights defenders to 78 in 2013.

Guatemala

  |  1 Feb 2014

Unchanged

Authorities 11 Jan seized private plane with Costa Rican registration carrying nearly half a tonne of cocaine, reportedly belonging to Sinaloa cartel, in NE Izabal dept. Appeals court 10 Jan affirmed lower court ruling that would nullify not only trial but also indictment of General José Efraín Ríos Montt for genocide and war crimes thereby further delaying retrial, already postponed till Jan 2015. President Pérez Molina dropped criminal complaint filed in Dec against editor of daily elPeriodico José Ruben Zamora, though indicated 10 Jan he would ask special media tribunal to investigate alleged misconduct. VP Baldetti pursuing separate complaint against Zamora for “psychological violence” before court specialising in crimes against women. Joint police/military operation 10 Jan in 6 departments detained 37 people accused of operating smuggling ring.

Mexico

  |  1 Feb 2014

Unchanged

Interior Minister Osorio Chong 8 Jan vowed to reestablish order in Michoacán state, where local vigilante groups have clashed with alleged members of Knights Templars drug cartel since early 2013; Chong said federal and state forces would jointly patrol Tierra Caliente region. Soldiers sent to disarm vigilantes in Antúnez town reportedly opened fire 13 Jan, killing at least 2. Govt 14 Jan named federal commissioner Alfredo Castillo to coordinate security in Michoacán, 27 Jan said federal forces had arrested 110 people in 12 days, including Knights Templar leader Dionisio Loya Plancarte aka “El Tío”. Govt and self defence groups 27 Jan signed agreement to integrate vigilantes into legal security units called Rural Defence Corps. Army and police forces early-month retook control over prison in Guerrero state after gunfight left 9 people dead. Chihuahua State Attorney General’s Office 15 Jan announced arrest of Ángel Salvador Taboada Villanueva aka “el Conejo” in connection with March 2011 murder of Juan Francisco Sicilia, son of poet-turned-activist Javier Sicilia. Govt 28 Jan announced creation of Anti-Kidnapping Unit to coordinate efforts at local and federal levels. Security forces 30 Jan captured Jalisco New Generation drug cartel’s second-in-command Ruben Oseguera Gonzalez aka “El Menchito”.

Venezuela

  |  1 Feb 2014

Unchanged

High-profile murder of former Miss Venezuela Mónica Spears and ex-partner 6 Jan forced politicians to intensify efforts toward solving country’s chronic insecurity crisis: President Maduro 8 Jan met with opposition governors of Miranda and Lara states Henrique Capriles and Henri Falcón and other state governors and mayors of 79 most crime-affected municipalities to work on “national pacification law”, to be finalised within month. Maduro 9 Jan announced changes to political and military leadership: 7 ministers, including industry, labour and education, replaced, General Gregorio Bernal Martínez appointed new head of Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (Sebin). Maduro also named retired military Manuel Eduardo Pérez Urdaneta and Ronald Blanco La Cruz as new director of National Police and head of National Security University (UNES) respectively, raising concerns over long-term fate of civilian police reform underway since 2009.

Colombia

  |  1 Feb 2014

Unchanged

19th round of peace talks between govt and FARC ended 23 Jan; negotiations to restart 3 Feb; FARC 14 Jan published detailed proposal for state-funded “National Programme to Substitute Illicit Uses of Coca, Poppy and Marijuana Crops”, drawing on ideas already formulated during ill-fated 2002 Caguán talks, including suspension of aerial fumigation, community-driven alternative development plans, creation of legal market for coca, poppy and marijuana crops. Month-long unilateral FARC ceasefire ended 15 Jan; violations occurred, but generally well-respected. 1 killed, over 60 injured in FARC motorcycle bomb attack in Pradera (Valle) 16 Jan; unusually strongly-worded Secretariat communiqué 23 Jan acknowledged attack, expressed “rejection and disapproval” for high civilian impact. Military reacted with offensive killing 27 FARC fighters and capturing 21 19-22 Jan. Prosecutor General Alejandro Ordóñez 13 Jan rejected appeal against Dec decision to remove Bogotá mayor Gustavo Petro from office; several Bogotá court decisions subsequently suspended removal, offering lifeline for Petro to stay in office until 2 March recall referendum. According to list published 18 Jan by left-wing movement Patriotic March, 29 members killed between April 2012-Jan 2014; 3 members allegedly forcefully disappeared. Conservative Party thrown into turmoil over 26 Jan convention decision to elect former defence minister Marta Lucía Ramírez as candidate for May presidential poll.

Venezuela

  |  2 Jan 2014

Unchanged

8 Dec municipal elections saw opposition MUD alliance make important advances, especially in big cities; MUD held metropolitan Caracas and Maracaibo and won Valencia and Barquisimeto, now controls 9 of 23 state capitals, plus greater Caracas including 4 of 5 Caracas municipalities. But controversial bid to turn election into plebiscite on President Maduro’s govt via national vote total backfired: ruling PSUV obtained almost 49% of votes, MUD less than 41%. MUD leadership insisting country split and govt lacks mandate for radical political and economic programs, also pointed to unfair election conditions and Maduro’s Nov move to force down retail prices.

Colombia

  |  2 Jan 2014

Unchanged

Peace talks between govt and FARC continued with discussions centred on illegal drugs; FARC 3 Dec presented 10 “minimal proposals” for counter drug policy, calling for immediate halt of areal fumigation, adoption of public health focus and stimulation of traditional, medical and industrial uses of coca leaf, marihuana and poppy. Talks concluded for year 20 Dec, set to resume 13 Jan. FARC 8 Dec announced unilateral 30-day ceasefire effective 15 Dec-15 Jan; 4 alleged violations occurred by 23 Dec. President Santos declared military offensive against guerrillas “will continue” following 7 Dec attack on police station in Inzá (Cauca) which left 9 dead, 40 injured. Prosecutor General 9 Dec dismissed Bogotá mayor and former M19 guerrilla member Gustavo Petro over allegations of “incompetence” and violating free enterprise principles in 2012 row with private garbage collectors; Petro also banned from holding public office for 15 years. FARC 10 Dec slammed decision as “heavy blow” for peace process. Talks with ELN again appeared to move closer; ELN 1 Dec released engineer abducted in Antioquia dept July 2012, 24 Dec released kidnapped oil worker in Arauca dept. ELN commander Gabino said group had accepted as “challenge” to negotiate without ceasefire, but later retracted. Ombudsman’s Office 11 Dec said clashes between ELN and NIAG Urabeños in Chocó dept could cause displacement of 1,900 residents. Police closing in on Urabeños leader Otoniel with 12 Dec detention of cousin and sister. Security forces 27 Dec killed at least 10 FARC, including regional commander Jhon 26, in Meta dept. UN 30 Dec accused FARC of continuing to recruit children.

Guatemala

  |  2 Jan 2014

Unchanged

Head of Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) Ivan Velásquez 5 Dec said commission will initiate investigations of corruption in customs and political campaign financing; means commission will take on new cases despite assertions by president and VP that it should devote last 2 years of its mandate to training prosecutors and investigators. Elite Tecún Umán Task Force began operations in west 16 Dec; President Pérez Molina said joint military/police force will combat drug traffickers and other smugglers operating along Pacific coast and Mexican border, said plans to create 2 more task forces operating along borders with El Salvador and Honduras. Pérez Molina 17 Dec announced govt studying possibility of legalising and regulating cultivation of opium poppies for medicinal use, would allow “controlled planting” while offering alternative crops to farmers now involved in illegal production. Authorities 27 Dec arrested Edgar Rolando Saguil, lieutenant of Felix Pimentel Lopez, himself arrested 8 Dec, on suspicion of links to Sinaloa cartel.

Mexico

  |  2 Jan 2014

Unchanged

Attorney General revealed names of 69 top drug traffickers arrested or killed in President Peña Nieto’s first year of govt from list of 122. Human Rights Commissioner Raúl Plascencia 17 Dec warned local vigilante groups gaining strength in Pacific state of Guerrero, armed groups operate in over half of state’s municipalities. New guerrilla group Revolutionary Armed Forces-People’s Liberation (FAR-LP) appeared in Guerrero early month, demanded release of “political prisoners”, asked people to take up arms against “oppressive govt”. Authorities continued to find bodies buried near border between Jalisco and Michoacán states; 64 bodies found so far in search initiated to find 2 federal agents who went missing early Nov; 10 burned bodies found 14 Dec inside car in indigenous community troubled by land disputes in Oaxaca state; 5 decapitated bodies found in Michoacan state 28 Dec, believed to be victims of Jalisco New Generation drug cartel. 4 municipal officers from Arcelia town, Guerrero killed in clash with army 6 Dec. Mayor-elect of San Pedro Totolapan town, Oaxaca state killed by gunmen outside city hall 5 Dec. Gonzalo Inzunza Inzunza, alias El Macho Prieto, high-ranking leader of Sinaloa Cartel killed 18 Dec in shoot-out with security forces in northern Mexico resort.

Guatemala

  |  1 Dec 2013

Unchanged

Security forces 12 Nov arrested 8 people for allegedly organising Oct escape of suspected drug boss José Ranferí Ponce Rodríguez. Govt sent hundreds of soldiers, police to Izabal dept to search for Ponce and allies; President Pérez Molina said suspect may have fled to Honduras. Spanish judge 4 Nov indicted former minister Carlos Roberto Vielmann for extrajudicial killing of 10 prisoners in 2005 and 2006. Unknown gunmen 28 Nov killed municipal council member in eastern city Jalapa.

Venezuela

  |  1 Dec 2013

Unchanged

President Maduro mid-month announced prices of electrical appliances unjustifiably high, ordered them reduced and told consumers to rush to shops and “leave nothing on shelves”; price controls subsequently extended to other consumer goods. Retail sector representatives warned it will be virtually impossible to maintain commercial operations. National Assembly 19 Nov approved law giving Maduro power to legislate by decree, primarily on economic matters, for 12 months, after govt removed opposition legislator on corruption charges. Local elections appeared set to go ahead 8 Dec despite fears govt would postpone poll. Opposition MUD seen as likely to make gains amid declining support in polls for ruling party, which is defending some 80% of municipalities. Govt decreed 8 Dec “Chavez loyalty day”, apparently planning to hold political rallies to coincide with poll in violation of electoral law. Tens of thousands of opposition supporters marched 23 Nov; MUD leader Capriles’ national tours coordinator arrested by military intelligence agents before marches started.

Bolivia

  |  1 Dec 2013

Unchanged

Govt’s long-awaited study on domestic coca use said legal demand 20,690 metric tons, requiring 14,705ha of cultivation; compared with current legal limit of 12,000ha, 20,000ha demanded by coca growers, 25,300ha under cultivation in 2012.

 

Bolivia

  |  1 Nov 2013

Unchanged

Parliament 3 Oct approved controversial law changing number of legislative seats awarded to departments, strengthening legislative presence of wealthier eastern department Santa Cruz with 3 additional seats; 3 other departments, Chuquisaca, Potosí and Beni, lost 1 each. 4 people killed in 19 Oct clash between drug eradication team and coca growers in Apolo municipality, La Paz department; details unclear, coca growers said “provoked”, interior minister blamed Peruvian drug-trafficking gangs.

Mexico

  |  1 Nov 2013

Unchanged

National Public Security Council 16 Oct extended by one year deadline for purging and certifying local and federal police officers, second extension. Authorities early Oct arrested 18, including 13 federal police, suspected of involvement in Acapulco kidnapping ring. Gunmen 18 Oct killed Francisco Arrellano Félix, former drug cartel leader. 7 inmates killed in prison riot in Tamaulipas state 26 Oct. Clashes between self-defence groups from Michoacán state and Knights Templar drug cartel 26-27 Oct triggered shoot-out in centre of Apatzingán and attacks on regional power stations leaving hundreds of thousands without electricity; at least 1,000 soldiers deployed to region. Mexico 23 Oct underwent Universal Periodic Review by UN Human Rights Council; urged to rein in security forces and investigate disappearances.

Colombia

  |  1 Nov 2013

Unchanged

16th round of govt-FARC peace talks started 23 Oct with discussions still centred on political participation. With 2014 electoral cycle approaching fast, President Santos 8 Oct discussed with senators and representatives of his party whether to pause, continue or end negotiations, with majority of Congress supporting continuation of talks but parties yet to discuss option in Havana. Amid increased FARC attacks on military targets and energy infrastructure mainly in E and SE, Santos 9 Oct launched large-scale counter-insurgency initiative targeted at FARC’s southern strongholds; denied contradiction with peace talks. FARC released former U.S. marine Kevin Scott Sutay 27 Oct after 4 months’ captivity. ELN 14 Oct said its delegation for exploratory talks with govt has been “ready” for a year, but process has not gone beyond “attempts to start”. Regional leader of New Illegal Armed Group Urabeños in Norte de Santander department “El Mico” surrendered and was captured alongside 17 members 23 Oct. Authorities 12 Oct arrested governor of La Guajira department Juan Francisco “Kiko” Gómez, accused of involvement in 1997 murder of local politician and 2 other killings. Convention of Democratic Centre movement led by former president Uribe 26 Oct elected former Finance Minister Óscar Iván Zuluaga as presidential candidate. Constitutional Court 23 Oct struck down over “procedural defects” constitutional reform and implementing legislation aimed at expanding military jurisdiction. Indigenous communities and govt 23 Oct signed agreement to boost judicial, administrative and political autonomy.

Venezuela

  |  1 Nov 2013

Unchanged

Finance Minister Nelson Merentes, seen as leading advocate of more flexible economic policy, stripped of role as “economic VP” early Oct and replaced by oil minister and chief of state-owned oil company Petróleos de Venezuela Rafael Ramirez. Ramirez’s appointment seen as strengthening hardliners led by Planning Minister Jorge Giordani who oppose détente with private sector, market economy. Rights activists voiced concern at revival of Strategic Center of Security and Homeland Protection, military-led body mandated to gather information on national security and determine which information should remain “restricted”.

Guatemala

  |  1 Nov 2013

Unchanged

Police 16 Oct captured then released 2 reputed drug traffickers in NE Izabal dept. Initial news reports stated authorities forced to flee after being attacked by crowd demanding men be released; newspaper elPeriodico suggested traffickers negotiated freedom. Authorities 22 Oct confiscated nearly 1 ton of cocaine during operation in Izabal. Mexican authorities 4 Oct captured Eduardo Villatoro Cano (“Guayo”), suspected of killing 9 police, 8 Oct arrested Gerardo Jaramillo (“El Yanqui”) who reportedly led gang linked to Mexican Zetas cartel. Finance Minister Pavel Centeno, who pushed for intervention to combat “mafias” controlling Guatemalan ports, resigned citing health issues. Following weeks of heavy criticism, govt 28 Oct backtracked on previous decision and carried out “operational intervention” consisting of military and police presence in 6 customs offices, under supervision of ministries of govt and defence and of tax authorities, amid complaints smuggling is undermining legitimate businesses. 

Colombia

  |  1 Oct 2013

Unchanged

New cycle of govt-FARC peace negotiations ended 19 Sept amid increasing tensions; talks to resume 3 Oct. President Santos 24 Sept said before UNGA peace will not lead to impunity for serious crimes, also called for faster negotiation results as “time for decisions” had come. In reaction, FARC leader Timochenko 25 Sept slammed Santos for supposedly “unilaterally imposing” restrictions on talks. Security forces 25 Sept killed high-ranking member of FARC’s Daniel Aldana mobile column in Tumaco, Nariño. VP Garzón 9 Sept announced peace talks with ELN would begin “over next days and in different place to Havana”, but new setback 10 Sept when ELN allegedly kidnapped 3 pipeline workers in Saravena, Arauca. ELN 30 Sept reaffirmed willingness to participate in peace talks. Santos 4 Sept announced cabinet reshuffle, replacing inter alia embattled interior and agriculture ministers; 12 Sept presented “National Agrarian Pact” to confront agrarian crisis, but initiative rejected by peasant grassroots. Amid social protests, Santos approval ratings down to 21%. Former President Uribe 16 Sept announced he will run as head of list for Senate in March 2014 elections.

Guatemala

  |  1 Oct 2013

Unchanged

UN 12 Sept named former Colombian magistrate Iván Velásquez next head of International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG); outgoing commissioner Francisco Dall’Anese 22 Aug credited CICIG with helping Guatemala lower impunity rates from 93% to 70% over past 6 years. Gunmen 7 Sept opened fire on residents of Maya town N of Guatemala City, killing 11 and injuring about 15; authorities blamed gang members allegedly angry because local bars refused to sell them liquor, but media reported some residents suspected corrupt police responsible for killings. Police 17 Sept captured son of Waldemar Lorenzana Lima, alias “Patriarch”, arrested in 2011 and fighting extradition to U.S. on drug-trafficking charges.

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CrisisWatch N°133

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